A Casual PTQ
By: Jeff Phillips
I’m a seriously casual player. This is only partially by my choice. Where I live, we have no official Friday Night Magic. The closest sanctioned Friday Night Magic tournaments are approximately 120 miles away. It’s not that we don’t have players, (we have Friday Night games with 15-20 people) we just have no sanctioned tournaments. While I'm working to change that, it is what it is. Plus, we like to play a lot of fun stuff. Vintage and Legacy, Extended, various types of drafts, large multi-player games, whatever we feel like. So, when I found out there was a Pro Tour Qualifier in my hometown, which is about 3 hours away, I figured I’d shuffle up and play. It would be a good weekend to catch up with some friends, visit the parents, and play some Magic at a higher level than usual. The fact that the Pro Tour's format, Standard, is my favorite, meant I had some incentive to win, but for the most part, I just wanted to see how I could play in a slightly larger pond. I sat down with a few of my better local players, and we tested. Originally, I was going to play Adrian Sullivan’s Destructive Flow deck. It has been thoroughly tested, and I love to mess with other players when I play. But then, I fell in love. Kuan Kuan Tian posted a BorosGoyf deck here, and it was kismet. A deck that only ever needs two lands to function? And plays my favorite burn spell ever, Lightning Helix? Take me home, Mama, I’m done searching.
So, I ran with the idea, did some testing made a few minor adjustments, and finally decided to run with this
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4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Kird Ape
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Keldon Marauders
3 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
4 Rift bolt
4 Seal of Fire
4 Lightning Helix
4 Shard Volley
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Windswept Heath
2 Horizon Canopy
3 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Temporal Isolation
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Pithing Needle
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Krosan Grip
The reason I love this deck is that I almost never, ever get mana screwed or flooded. Every spell in the main deck can be cast for 2 mana or less, and I can smooth out my mana resources very efficiently. In the sideboard, there is one 3-drop (Krosan Grip) but everything else is 2 or less. Mana issues only happened once in about 200 games of testing and actual tournament play. That was an instance of mana flood, which is usually rather easy to avoid, as the deck only runs 18 lands. The fetch lands allow me to thin the deck of lands even further, meaning that if the game gets stale, I’m more likely to draw something to break it to my advantage. Ideally, I would have had 4 Windswept Heaths, instead of just two with two Horizon Canopy, but I could only procure 2 Heaths. That’s the same reason I only had 3 Tarmogoyfs, as I only own 3. Nonetheless, I figured if I was going to be playing 6-8 hours of Magic, I wanted it to be fast, and I wanted to not get mad at my own deck. I wanted to win or lose based on play and matchups, not mana. One issue is the speed tends to burn out your hand quickly. By turn 6 or so, you usually have an empty grip. I had been concerned by that, but in testing, I found that if you don't have them within a burn spell or two by then, you probably weren't going to get there. My intent was to get about 10 spells out by then, and hope that made 20 damage. After that, I'm typically in top-deck mode, hoping for an out.
As far as my metagame expectations, I figured I would see a large contingent of Goblins, Domain Aggro, and Dredge. I figured some Urza Tron would also show up. But enough on my missed meta-game calls, let’s look at the Tournament.
Round One: Jeff Sittner: Reveillark Combo
1st game: I get some early beats in with Isamaru, Hound of Konda, and a Rift Bolt. He’s at 11, but then he started going off. He ended at 8 after some City of Brass collateral damage, but I never really had a chance. I didn’t get to test against this match up, so I’m a little shell-shocked. I just didn’t think it would show up much.
I sideboarded in Tormod’s Crypts and the Pithing Needles
2nd game: Early Kird Ape and a Rift Bolt start me off fast. Then on turn 4, I didn’t play Pithing Needle, thinking (wrongly) that I had one more turn before he goes off. Seething Song proves otherwise. I mentioned the Needle misplay to him afterwards, but he flashed the Krosan in his grip, meaning it only would have set him back a turn. My top deck was unspectacular, so he would have won regardless of the misplay. Still, it bothers me that I made such a mistake right out of the gate
So, off to the loser’s bracket with me. I basically have to win out to have a chance. On the plus side, Sittner ends up making top 8, so my tiebreakers aren’t hosed too badly. Still, I'm rather disappointed with myself. My first match, and I'm already 0-2. A lesser man may have been too distraught to go on, but not I. No, I'm a glutton for punishment.
Round 2: Pete Johnson: Mirror
Great, I didn’t do a lot of testing against the mirror, thinking more people would go the typical route. He did have the difference of running Magma Jet instead of Shard Volley, and apparently, a lot more lands instead of some of the other beaters/burn.
1st game: We traded red-zone damage, him with Kird Ape, and myself with Mogg Fanatic and Tarmogoyf, which he burned out. He brought me down to 1, which would have been game had I not been the beneficiary of a Lightning Helix earlier in the game. Meanwhile, he was at 12, with an empty hand. Any gas, and I was toast. I resolved a second Goyf, he drew three lands in a row, and my Goyf plus a Rift bolt went all the way for the win.
2nd game: I resolved Isamaru, Hound of Konda turn one, which did 4 before being put down. The only damage I took was one Magma Jet, and my own fetchlands and shocklands. A Mogg Fanatic went for 3 rounds, and a Keldon Marauders and two Shard Volleys finished it off. Three of his last 5 draws here were lands as well.
So, I learned my light mana base was the right call. I was really amazed at how many lands he had in his deck. Remember, kids, there's never a hard and fast rule of how many lands a deck should have. Each deck has different cards, and therefore may need different mana bases. Testing is the best way to find it.
Round 3: Tyson Leyba: RGb aggro
I tested this match up pretty extensively, and every match said “Let Dark Confidant do the damage for you, and you’ll win.” So, I was pretty excited. Tyson’s “tech” was to be on the draw each time, and therefore get an extra card as an edge. I guess we’ll see.
1st game: His Tarmogoyf started off for 5, but the big one was a Blistering Firecat for 7. The entire game, I couldn’t find the burn I needed, and I really could have used a Lightning Helix, as the life gain was one of my best plays against the aggro. This was frustrating, as I drew the most inefficient cards in my deck.
2nd game: We had about equal beats, but I kept burning his out after one hit. I was drawing some good fuel, and when his Dark Confidant nailed him for 2 on consecutive rounds, it moved hsi life total within lethal range for my Lightning Helix, Incinerate, and Seal of Fire to secure the win.
So, we’re shuffling up for a decider. This is where he revealed his tech, and decided to be on the draw, as I had won the initial roll, and then went first in the second game as well.
3rd game: He led off with a Kird Ape, while I plowed down with Keldon Marauders on turn two. I Lightning Helixed his Ape, and attacked him, but then he played another Ape on his turn. I burned out his second Kird Ape, and this is where I wonder if it was the right play. Had I kept it, could I have used it to finish him later? He also dropped a Bob at 14 life, and I was loaded with burn. A few decent reveals, and I can end this. First card revealed, Tarfire, 13 life. But his Bob and now a third Kird Ape were hitting me as well. It was a race, but my deck was equipped with better fuel. If he drew lands, he had no play, and if he didn’t, then he’s taking damage. After the Tarfire, he’s at 13, I’m at 11. His next reveal was Dark Confidant. Nice, a dead card, and 2 damage to boot. He cast the Tarfire, and we were at 11-9, in his favor. My Rift Bolt took him to 8, and his Dark Confidant revealed… Seal of Fire, which put him at 7. He cracked a Bloodstained Mire to go to 6, and then swung with Bob. I was at 7, he was at 6. I had a Seal of Fire in play, and Incinerate in my hand, so any card with mana cost greater than 0 revealed would win it for me. He revealed a Stomping Ground, meaning no damage, and I had to use my Incinerate and my blocker to take down his very large, and very lethal, Goyf in addition to Dark Confidant. Next turn, he revealed Mogg Fanatic, but I couldn’t capitalize without a 3 damage spell in my hand, and I died.
I lost, but I still think I did the right thing with my plan of letting his Dark Confidant try and win the game for me. Anything but land on that 3rd reveal, and this match ends very differently. For the record, my teammates hear about the massive underperformance of the Dark Confidant reveals for the next three rounds. Hey, everyone needs to complain about something.
I’m 1-2 and I’m thinking about dropping, but someone mentions a 4-2 might just make it. I see Sittner undefeated, and Pete dropped, so my tiebreakers aren’t too bad, about .625, so I decide to stay in. Besides, I don’t have any plans till much later. What could be better than playing Magic, right?
Round 4: Matthew Englebert: Land Hate
Matt and I were both 1-2, and Matt’s deck was… odd. He had some land destruction, and some other things, but all in all, the deck seems confused. He was playing for a long game, and my speed made this match over very fast. Game 1 had early Grim Lavamancers, and a fistful of burn, while game 2 had Isamaru for 4 rounds. The whole thing took 8 minutes. Afterwards, Matt and I played a friendly third game, where he mentioned this wasn’t a tuned deck, and it was in the middle of a transition. Probably not the best idea for a PTQ. It started as a land destruction deck with ‘Vores, but the ‘Vores came out. He drops from the tournament after this.
So, I’m 2-2, and if I win out, I have a shot at top 8 (very slim) and a good chance at finishing in the prizes (packs!)
Right now, my tiebreaks are sitting very close to .500 (I believe 7-7 were my OMW, possibly 8-6) so, if Tyson and Jeff play well, I may have an outside chance of top 8.
Round 5: Jeremiah Larsen: BG Tron
I have had a chance to scout Jeremiah’s Deck beforehand, and his Mindslaver shenanigans didn’t look pretty to me. But it’s slow, so I’m hoping I can get him down far enough, fast enough.
1st game: Isamaru turn one, Mogg Fanatic turn two, then a third Fanatic on turn four. I got him down to 4, he cracked a Polluted Delta, then I Incinerate him for the win. That was turn 7. He did get a Gifts off on turn 5, and I figured that was the end, as his lands in play included Breeding Pool & Urza’s Mine. But his Gifts went for Urza’s Power Plant, Academy Ruins, Life from the Loam, and Urza’s Mine. After it resolved, I asked why he didn’t get a Tower instead. He said he had nothing he needed Urza Tron for. Seems like a mistake to me, though. If you’re going to go for another Tron land, you might as well complete the set. He’d have felt rather daft had he top-decked Mindslaver later on.
2nd Game: He took Breeding Pool damage, I played Keldon Marauders, followed by Rift Bolt, another Keldon Marauders, Lightning Helix, then, turn 6 Incinerate, double Shard Volley for the win. Again, it just seemed like Tron went too slow for him.
Round 6: Jared Sliger: Unknown
Jared probably meant to drop, but he never showed, and after 10 minutes, I get the No Show victory. I was kind of bummed, because as I said, I came to play Magic, regardless. So, I walk around and watch a few other matches. On the plus side, I have a very strong chance of finishing in the prizes with this win, so here’s hoping.
Games 9-4 (technically)
Final standings… 14th! Not too shabby for my first real tournament, and playing a deck I knew to be suboptimal on top of that. Three Morningtide packs later, which yielded Bitterblossom, Reveillark, and Weirding Shaman, (two out of three ain’t bad) and I’m on my way to a BBQ. I’m out!